Climbing to the very top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, at the peak of its limestone-clad, gold-tipped Wonders of the World glory. Strolling around the Library of Alexandria while the Lighthouse (another World Wonder) looms in the background. Resorting to sneaky tactics during a high stakes chariot race at the hippodrome. Making breathtaking discoveries in the bowels of a booby-trapped pharaoh’s tomb. Taking charge of a war galley and issuing ramming orders during a battle at sea. Entering the gladiatorial arena. Simply taking part in a temple festival to celebrate one of Egypt’s many many gods…

If you can fantasise it, you can find it in Assassin’s Creed Origins – and experience it for yourself. The game is a dream come true for history buffs, and/or sword-and-sandal fans. When you stumble into these scenarios, you realise Origins’ greatest strength: the excitement and sense of wonder it continually stirs up as it unveils yet another part of its attentively and gorgeously realised world. Whether you’re playing on a standard PS4 or Xbox One, or have gone full 4K, Assassin’s Creed Origins is relentlessly bee-yoo-tee-full. Few games have been more deserving of a built-in Photo Mode (which Origins has, of course).

And yes, the game – a prequel which shows how the Brotherhood of Assassins came into being – is a decent jumping-on point for newcomers to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. There is a present-day story wrapped around the 48 BCE exploits of Bayek, Egypt’s last medjay, but you don’t really need to be familiar with series events. The information is there for lore fanatics (embedded in assorted digital journals and documents), but all players need to know is that multinational corporation Abstergo Industries has invented a machine called the Animus, which allows users to tap into genetic memories through the use of DNA.

But honestly, nobody really cares about the sci-fi side of things, or the series’ insistence there was a technically advanced First Civilisation prior to the rise of Mankind, and that they left certain powerful artefacts. People love Assassin’s Creed for the chance to play around in a historical setting. In this regard, Origins delivers, and then some. With story arcs and events lifted straight from ancient texts and Archaeology journals, you might find yourself embroiled in a controversy over fake cat mummies. Alternatively, you could choose to defend a dissident playwright in Alexandria, a city so unlike the rest of Egypt it feels like it’s been transplanted straight from Greece across the Mediterranean, Greek population and all.

One of the best surprises about Assassin’s Creed Origins, though, is how well it handles the “modernisation” of the franchise’s gameplay systems. As an Action Adventure fan, I was worried that Origins was going to go full RPG, forcing an overwhelming number of customisation and crafting options on the player – which grind gameplay to a frequent, frustrating halt. Thankfully it doesn’t. You can buy, find and be awarded better weapons. You can use the five or so types of looted resources to improve the stats of your armour and other adventuring gear. And there’s the requisite skill tree. But that’s about it.

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Origins is very flexible with how you go about things. If you consider looting a painful time sink, you can even spend real money at the game’s store (in the form of Helix credits) to buy thousands of drachma, different costumes, fancy weapons and a highly tempting unicorn mount. You’re not forced to, though, nor do you need to – unless you really want that unicorn. In no mood to hunt for animal skins? Simply disassemble that useless found shield into its base components. Or make some quick bucks by selling it intact, along with all your other junk, to your bff in the game: the blacksmith. For a price, he’ll even keep upgrading your beloved legendary sword so it keeps pace with your level.

The combat has been reworked and given more depth for the tenth Assassin’s Creed title. No longer about timing your attack and defence around paired animations as per the older games, now the player has considerably more options to experiment with – and worry about when facing opponents. There’s weapon reach, speed, light attacks, heavy attacks, parries, dodges, combos and a special Overpower attack (or Frenzy) you can unleash when your adrenaline is fully charged.

Outside of combat situations, though, there’s the usual guidance players have come to expect of contemporary third-person action-adventures. Just like Batman with his Detective Vision in the Arkham games, and Lara Croft’s Survival Instincts in the Tomb Raider reboots, Bayek in Origins has an Animus Pulse ability that highlights nearby points of interest. He also has literal Eagle Vision in the form of his bird companion Senu who flies overhead, and will, among other things, pinpoint the location of quest objectives. The use of Bayek’s Animus Pulse is optional, but Senu’s pointer is active by default, and that feels like hand-holding gone a little too far in a game that stresses exploration and discovery.

No Unity, Assassin’s Creed Origins is well-thought-out and runs smoothly, barring a tiny bit of juddering and a couple of non-playing dialogue files. It’s also excellent value for money. The prologue alone is over two hours long. For the record, this review was written after dozens of hours of gameplay, and 20 levels of character advancement – and there’s still more to do. How you cope with the game’s challenging combat (enemy AI is crafty!) will also affect your playtime, although you can change Origins’ difficulty setting at any point.

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The only major drawback of Assassin’s Creed Origins is that the side quests in each area can feel a bit samey – and you must complete some to keep up with the main storyline’s level requirements. Origins promised a move away from the repeated missions of the older games to a quest system instead, but for the most part these quests are so formulaic they may as well be missions: Infiltrate a bandit or military camp, rescue and/or escort someone, assassinate a bully, investigate an incident, help with an everyday household task, go swimming to retrieve something from the bottom of the Nile. And repeat.

This said, there are some gems among the pebbles. Origins looks like it will be one of those games where you ask your friends if they discovered the same random thing you did during your wanderings. A ship in the middle of the desert, for example. That secret passageway behind an iconic structure. Papyrus riddles left all over the place as cryptic treasure maps. Or a murder mystery that will have you visiting shrines across Egypt to search for evidence of black magic.

My personal favourite side quest though is only available at night, and involves the matching of constellations. It’s a different type of activity for one thing, but it’s also poignant as it ties in to Bayek’s past. The dialogue in these scenes is especially good as it reflects existential philosophising that so often accompanies star-gazing.

As inconsistent as the side quests can be, the main storyline in Assassin’s Creed Origins is very strong. It’s interesting, it’s diverse with its tasks and locations, and, most importantly, it’s full of heart. Bayek is essentially on a revenge quest, but he is never treated as a grim, textbook loner as a result of the tragedy he’s experienced. He can laugh and smile; get drunk with frenemies; make very passionate love to his wife; bond with children. He’s never presented as the Punisher. It’s refreshing to play a character who is very much a valued, familiar member of the community instead of being a poster child for self-destructive masculinity. Bayek feels like a character who’s been treated with as much care as the credible and dynamic universe he occupies.

Assassin’s Creed Origins is a prime example of why single-player games exist. They function as our own little Animus, allowing us to be someone else for a while, walking in their shoes (or sandals) through a world that we cannot otherwise access. It’s satisfying, mentally challenging escapism that comes with a side serving of education about the past. And in Origins’ case, you’ll happily lose yourself in its sumptuous setting for hours. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a chariot race to win.

Last Updated: October 26, 2017

Assassin's Creed Origins
Summary
Assassin’s Creed Origins is a pharaoh’s tomb chock-full of shiny treasures for gamers, especially those fascinated with Ancient Egypt. The side quests may feel a little repetitive, but the credible, nuanced characters and diversity of the main plot make up for it. And with so much to explore and do in its jaw-dropping setting, Origins is exceptional.
9.0
Assassin's Creed Origins was reviewed on PlayStation 4
80 / 100

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

  • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

    9/10? How pharaoh’f you!

  • Matthew Figueira

    9/10? Please, we all know that the fact that you can pet random cats makes this game an instant 10/10 😛

  • Francois Knoetze

    holy monkey balls!!! now I am keen on an AC game again!! great review!

  • For the Emperor!

    Sounds very good. Especially tempting since I spent a few weeks in Egypt earlier this year! But…will have to wait for GotY edition…

    • I was there for a few weeks in 2009. It’s such an incredible place.

      • For the Emperor!

        Friendly people, great food, great history, swimming in the Nile, swimming in an oasis in the desert, swimming in Cleopatra’s Bath. Wish I was there right now!!

  • MonsterCheddar
  • Magoo

    Fuck it. CoD can wait.

  • MonsterCheddar

    But will it have Loot sarcophagi and Micro Pyramid Schemes to take us Pharoah ride?

  • Trebzz

    Assassins Creed game getting a 9? How much they pay you to give it such a high score? 😛 I am so super excited for this tomorrow and I dunno if they give out awards for reviews and stuff, but you totally deserve one 🙂 Mabrook, Ashraf and the team

  • Apex_Predator

    “make very passionate love to his wife” You poor poor girl. Emasculated Gaming SJW guys and neckbeards not gettin’ it done for you? You’ve never been touched by a real man the way this fictional guy ravages his wife?

    My heart breaks for you. Send me a private msg. I can help. <3 <3

  • Winter

    Personally, and this IS just an opinion, I wasn’t all that impressed with ASO mainly because this is the exact same plot of AC2, ACB, AC3, ACBF and ACU. Its a revenge story that hits the exact same story beats that are hit in most of the series with little to nothing to shack it up and I don’t know why this bugs me so much as I’m fine when Mission: Impossible repeats the same story beats or when Rise of the Tomb Raider repeated a few story elements from A Survivor is Born.

    But I think the reason that it bugs me so much here is because A) There’s little to no variety, its just the same thing over and over again to the point that some of the games protagonists just feel like a copy and paste of Ezio.

    I’m also tired of the developers “interpretation” of history in which they either turn certain people into the paragons of good or villains that are so one dimensionally evil that all they are missing is a mustache to twirl. Take for instance Julius Caesar and Brutus, the former was a reformer who aimed to improve the lives of the Roman poor and there is no evidence that Caesar was a tyrant.

    Too save time here’s Caesar’s reign, death and the fall out of his death from History Buffs review of Rome.

    • Noelle Adams

      How have you even already played the full game? It’s only officially out today

      • Winter

        The mall that is close by some times releases games a day early because they can’t release games at midnight. I picked it up for a friend who was nice enough to let me play it first, I tend speed run through every game I buy the first so I can just focus on the story and then in my second playthrough take my time and do everything.

        • Shrike

          Can you tell how long is the main story on a speedrun?

          • Winter

            I think it was about 20 or 30 hours.

    • Original Heretic

      Must admit, that was why I got tired of the AC games as well. Though the mechanics were upgraded and it looked better, all the stories were so similar.
      For me, no variation = boredom.

      • Winter

        It wasn’t just that for me. That was a big part of it but what ultimately killed the series for me was Revelations when Lucy was revealed to be a Templar despite that opening a million plot holes that have still gone unanswered and Ezio burning down a village and then calling the Templars monsters while we see and hear innocent screaming in terror by a something he caused.

        He is seriously calling this guy a monster even though we never see him kill anyone. Yes he wanted to oppress the people for his own power but last time I checked, killing people just to get at one target is a little more evil.

        ACB was the moment the series began having a number of problems namely having the Templars always, Always, ALWAYS on the losing side of the battle with only one exception which races the question how can these people be so powerful when they are always getting their asses handed to them by usually one person.

        At least with Rise of the Tomb Raider Lara had help from a small army that was trained in gorilla fighting and Trinity at least scored one or two victories and their loses were, in the end, minimal. Meanwhile The Templars have lost armies, cities, several of their highest ranking members and artifacts and yes are still somehow the most powerful organization in the world and the assassins are on the brink of extinction even though a single assassin was able to brake into most secure bases. Killed one of their highest ranking members and one of their best fighters. Said best fighter was so clearly not right for this job as he regularly got his butt handed to him by said assassin. And said assassin was always one step ahead of them and had to be taken out by plot.

        And then there’s Lucy’s betrayal, dear GOD does is this a stupid plan. So Desmond is the only means they have to find a secure a powerful artifact that will be used to save the world. So the Templars need to secure his trust. And how do they go about it?

        Do they make him feel comfortable & safe to build trust so he’ll do what they want him to? Nope they send him out into the world and pretty much hand him over to the assassins with only one agent to watch over him.

        And what’s worse is that the twist of Lucy being a Templar could work, if everyone in the cell was a Templar. Shaun, Rebecca and Lucy, make them all Templar agents and that everything Desmond has seen ever since the start of AC2 was a act to gain his trust and when Juno took control of him she has him kill all of them on the spot.

        But nope, its just the one person who never saw any issue in letting her team do things that could reveal that she was a turn coat like oh say, going through the memories of the person she betrayed.

        ARGH!!! Also Desmond is a terrible character.

  • Nikola

    This makes me soooo happy:) I love the series but since Black Flag the games have been to be frank crap, excited to dive into this!!

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    You missed a great opportunity for a pun here:
    go swimming to retrieve something from the bottom of the Nile. *Rince* And repeat.

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